Elegy for Miran Sutherland

Miran Sutherland was miscarried at 14 weeks.
Read his story here.

His earthly life a hundred days,
He died inside his mother’s womb.
His tiny eyes would never gaze
On lights that earthly life illume.
His doctor called him “medical waste;”
His mother, shocked and horrified,
Demanded labor start posthaste
To hold in hand her child who died.

No unformed clump of cells was he,
With fingers, nail beds, boy parts, feet,
Toes, earlobes, gums, and tongue; we see
His human body wrought complete.
Fully formed, his peaceful face
Mirrored well his older brother.
In Mama’s hand he lay in place
Like Jesus by His grieving Mother.

His photos shared around the earth
Changed the minds of many mothers
Of babies far too young for birth;
His early death prevented others.
Some kept their babies, now rejoice;
Some women screamed, “What have I done?”
So many ceased to be “pro-choice,”
Their hearts repaired by one lost son.



Joshua C. Frank works in the field of statistics and lives near Austin, Texas. His poetry has also been published in the Asahi Haikuist Network.

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26 Responses

  1. Cheryl Corey

    To look at the photos and read the poem … how could anyone not be deeply affected. Both should be more widely circulated – before Congress, at a “pro-choice” rally, in front of an abortion clinic. Powerful stuff.

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you, Cheryl. If you (or anyone else) see these as needing to be widely circulated (and I agree), then please help the cause by spreading it (and, for that matter, my other similarly themed work) as far and wide as possible and encouraging others to do the same.

  2. Brian Yapko

    Josh, this is an extremely powerful poem which casts a harsh spotlight on abortion (including how callous the medical profession can be!) and which effectively demonstrates how precious and fully human the unborn are. It’s unfathomable that this message even needs to get out there but you do it beautifully and with great heart. That Miran’s photos shared around the world made a difference is truly encouraging. I hope your poem also finds a wide audience. Well done!

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you, Brian! I’m glad my poem is effective. It truly is unfathomable that this message needs to get out there… but any help you can give it to get out there would be great!

  3. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Josh, this is beautifully and sensitively written. Your combination of raw truth and heartfelt grief gives your words a power that brings the marvel of creation to life. Words matter… there’s a vast and wicked world of difference between the term “medical waste” and the delicate masterpiece of miraculous significance that you describe so well. And what a legacy this “lost son” has left. Your closing four lines say just that. This is the sort of language those who make a fortune from abortion want shut down.

    Josh, thank you for saying what needs to be said – I’m certain this poem will make a difference that needs to be made.

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Susan, thank you so much! Your description of what I was trying to express (successfully, apparently) is beautifully written in its own right. That you see it that way means a lot. I hope it makes at least as much of a difference as the photos did.

  4. Margaret Coats

    Joshua, this poem is worthy to stand alongside Ben Jonson’s much-anthologized elegies for children. Jonson was very good at touching the notes of gentle pathos, and his lament on his first son has the superb line where Jonson calls the dead boy, “Ben Jonson his best piece of poetry.” But I find both that poem and the Epitaph on Salathiel Pavy, as good as they are, don’t have fully satisfactory endings. Your final line, though, brings together grief at Miran Sutherland’s death and the important purposes still being achieved by his brief life.

    With regard to Julian Woodruff’s caveat, I don’t believe any embryonic babies are sacrificed by focusing on the human qualities of a fetal baby such as Miran. What is remarkable about the pictures of Miran is that they show him at one stage within a continuity of human life that begins at conception. We see that even if he had been born alive, Miran was not a child whom today’s best neonatal care is equipped to foster outside the womb. But he is human, and so he was a week or two or three or more prior to when we see him. Even when he was a single cell (as we all once were), he had those human parts in potential. His pregnant mother only provided food enabling him to grow. Your poem and the story with many pictures allow us to think forward to Miran with a face like his brother’s–although features are not fully formed. It is not truly possible to think back to a time when there was nothing that could ever be a face.

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Margaret, I’m honored by such a comparison, that my poem is “worthy to stand alongside Ben Jonson’s much-anthologized elegies for children.” Thank you so much. I think that’s the new greatest compliment I’ve received on my poetry.

      As you may have seen in my rebuttal to Julian’s argument, I agree with you. I find such a claim of discrimination to be no more than typical liberal divisiveness.

  5. Joshua C. Frank

    Thank you for your thoughts, Julian. I agree, the world does need more acknowledgements of the humanity of all people regardless of age. After all, the Holocaust was justified in the minds of the German people on the grounds that the victims were somehow not human.

    To answer your objections, I thought about all of them before I finished this poem, and here are my answers:

    First, the word “others” in the line, “His early death prevented others,” refers to other early deaths, which essentially means the same as what you propose.

    Second, and more importantly, that emphasis is there for a very good reason. Women who go to abortion clinics are falsely “reassured” that “it’s just a clump of cells.” Another article talks of one such woman who thought exactly this, and then asked to see the “ball of tissue.” https://www.lifenews.com/2017/05/03/woman-laughs-ahead-of-her-9th-abortion-and-then-sees-her-aborted-baby/ The nurse put the corpse back together (as they do to make sure all its pieces are accounted for) and showed her. He (I’m using masculine pronouns for convenience) was the same age as young Mr. Sutherland. His mother saw his body and realized that he, along with his eight older siblings who died the same way, was her baby. The understanding that a baby his age really is a baby and not just a glorified tumor has saved many lives, so your disparaging such efforts is uncalled-for. After all, no embryonic lives are harmed just because I dare to point out that a baby 14 weeks after conception has hands and feet.

    Third, I did write a poem against in vitro fertilization and the consequent abandonment of many children at the embryo stage, and even submitted it here, but it was rejected. I’m looking for a magazine that will accept it, so I’m not going to display it here. I’m also looking for another angle from which to come at that issue so a poem on the subject can be published here.

    In short, you make a typical liberal error in criticizing me for not including all groups in my poem rather than commending me for helping save lives. Would you rather I not do something to prevent abortions so your need for equality can be satisfied? May I ask what you’ve done in the pro-life effort? Your divisiveness is counterproductive and therefore harmful to the unborn.

    Of course “the world must come to see the gift of life as a mysterious and inviolable natural continuity from conception to death.” That goes without saying. But I’m not going to accomplish all that in 24 lines.

    • Monika Cooper

      “I did write a poem against in vitro fertilization and the consequent abandonment of many children at the embryo stage.”

      I have a poem on that theme too.

      • Monika Cooper

        No, not yet. It’s one of the series my other poems published here are from: number 42, La Calavera.

        Thank you for your interest!

    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Your defensive response to my comment surprises me. I certainly meant no disparagement of your poem or its sentiments. Nor do I mean to be divisive on the pro-life front. My prayers are always for the success of the pro-life cause. I don’t see how expressing concern over possible limitations or inconsistencies of thinking within the pro-life ranks can be construed as in any way either liberal or divisive; my hope is for greater unity and coherence.
      As to any credentials I have myself in the pro-life cause, I will simply say that they exist. I think that is all that need be said.
      In conclusion, I am hoping for a favorable response from Evan to my request that the SCP floor be opened for responses to a recent poem from another publication that appears to be a frankly pagan send-up of hedonistic sexuality and closes with a rhetorical question challenging Christian belief in this realm. To me, it expresses a very destructive attitude. If I am successful in my request, I hope you will be moved to obtain a copy of the poem and contribute a response.

    • Joshua C. Frank

      If it really is true that your hope is for greater unity and coherence, then you need to understand that the war for life is on multiple fronts rather than inconsistent as you claim. During World War II, no one in the United States complained that fighting in Europe took away from fighting in the Pacific, or vice versa. People recognized that if either enemy was allowed to win, then the United States would be absorbed into someone else’s empire.

      Similarly, the fight against killing babies old enough to die in an abortion clinic is a different front from the fight against killing babies at the embryo stage. While the fact that they are human should convince all that their lives need to be saved, Western culture has become so evil that most people just aren’t there. So, we have to meet them where they are, and where they are is stuck on the idea that if it’s just a clump of cells, it’s not a baby. We show that an unborn baby looks much like a born baby, and this will at least save some lives. Then we take care of defending embryos separately, which will require separate arguments. You’re asking me to do everything all at once in a single poem, and that’s just not a reasonable request.

      You call my response defensive, but you don’t recognize just how hostile your response was. You can’t just say hostile things and then claim that you didn’t mean anything by them, especially when you defend yourself by calling my response defensive. It doesn’t work that way. If you’re pro-life, you should be grateful that someone’s willing to stick his neck out and write pro-life poetry even if it’s not to your liking.

      On another note, that sounds like fun, to write a poem in response to the one you’ve seen. I look forward to contributing to that.

    • Joshua C. Frank

      I sent this poem to Miran Sutherland’s mother, and she said, “Your poem is so beautiful and I am truly thankful for it.”

      • Joshua C. Frank

        As I found out later, she also shared a link to this page on Facebook and said, “Still so thankful for how God uses Miran. Never would have imagined it when I lost him but wouldn’t have it any other way now.”

  6. Joseph S. Salemi

    A shattering poem, and a shattering story.

    Calling an unborn child “medical waste” reminds me of what a concentration-camp survivor told me many years ago, about the language used by guards when ordering inmates to carry corpses to different areas for disposal. The words “bodies” and “corpses” and “remains” were forbidden, on pain of death. You could only refer to what you were carrying or dragging as “rags,” or “dolls.”

    The survivor told me that he personally witnessed a guard shoot two inmates dead simply because they had casually uttered the word “Leiche” (German for “corpse”) while working. That’s how serious the taboo was.

    Language is just as real and powerful a weapon in our current culture war as machine guns are in a pitched battle. The left knows this, which is why they are furiously working to control words at every level of usage.


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